Photoshop | Our Favourite Things: The Bryan Edition

A photograph made by Bryan to express society's obsession with status instead of caring about the actual work itself.

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5. Photoshop

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check out my post on the art of photo compositing on Cooper & O’Hara commercial photography (click image for link)

 There’s no doubt that one of my favourite things is photography. Pursuing it as a career has been driven not by financial greed, but an inner desire to spend my life enjoying what I do for work. For these “favourite things” I wanted to touch on something specific, rather than just photography in general. Photoshop has at times been controversial for a number of reasons, so I thought I would lay out my feelings regarding Photoshop and why I love it. This post is part education, part rant (just a small amount), and part personal detail about me.

How many times have you heard the word photoshop used as a verb? As in: “I’ll photoshop that in post..” or “that looks photoshopped”. It’s common-place in society, and it’s rather a shame. Although the photography business is a muddled mess of an industry right now, I’m so happy that I am a photographer in this era. We need to combat these two stereotypes, and I’ll tell you why. But first, I want to tell you what I LOVE about Photoshop. At times I could even call myself a Photoshopographer…. and not as an insult.

Photography used to be more isolated, in its intent and as a craft. You were a photographer who made images on film and turned those into prints – a fairly specific skill set. If you worked as a commercial photographer, there was a lot of collaboration involved, with other creatives such as make-up artists, art designers, graphic designers. (That’s something that is still obviously part of the profession, and one of the things I’m learning is how to network with these people to create more amazing work). Collaboration has the benefit of working with other people who have differing creative visions; you bounce ideas off each other and sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. However, sometimes you just can’t have big production value, and all you have is an idea, and at some point there is only so much that can be done in terms of practical propping, costuming, and background. Particularly if you’re doing something that is intentionally un-realistic.

Here I delve into the category of photo-illustration, which can be a slightly vague and confusing term. I interpret it to mean a photograph that visually illustrates a concept, idea, or issue. Some use this term to also describe the illustration of a product, so you can see how that could add to the confusion, but I digress. Photoshop allows me to individually, and on a budget, go out and make photo-illustrations.

Without photoshop I never could have achieved the surreal feel to this photograph, even if I could fake it in-camera

It’s very important that I make a point that these photos are there to purposefully express something un-realistic. Without an understanding from the reader that this image is an illustration, things can get murky; it’s a very grey issue. Take, for example, the shunned category of docu-drama, which in photojournalism is avoided at all costs.

A docu-drama photograph combines documentary and imitation (drama). It is an image of a scene which could be found in the world, but which the photographer has chosen to recreate for the sake of time or access. You obviously need to be very express in stating that the image is a docu-drama or you could lose the trust of your viewers. I believe the boom of the internet and the “viral” image – one that no longer stays connected to the original source – is the biggest cause of society in general to distrust photographers or photographs. But for a person to intentionally and maliciously alter an image just to lie is rarer than most might think, in my opinion.

To photoshop something in post-production, though, when it can so easily be remedied at the time of shooting, is just practicing laziness. There have been times where I’ve had to do some adjustments or corrections in photoshop, of course, nobody is perfect, but it’s either because I was too tunnel-visioned to see the error or because I simply couldn’t do what I wanted to in reality because of issues like budget. To say those words “I’ll just photoshop it” is a disservice to the craft of photography, and makes both amateurs and professionals look bad. It is better to attempt to take the best photograph you can, instead.

“That looks photoshopped.” Is there a difference in value between art that has been captured as “true to reality” versus that of intentional adjustment or alteration? What I think I’ve begun to realize more and more is that photography, and not just photoshop, is always subject to interpretation. One must always have a critical eye.. if all you’re looking after is the truth. There are so many decisions that go into making a photograph, far before the stage of photoshop will even be reached. Before the advent of photoshop, photographers had plenty of techniques. I think it’s history repeating itself, but everyone has forgotten. Take the invention of roll film. It caused people to believe/fear that photography was going down the shitter, and that same argument has resurfaced since the digital age increased access to photography for the public. It’s an elitist point of view to just dismiss the amateur instead of educating them, including the public that don’t necessarily create photographs, but certainly view them and think about them.

Just picking the exact moment you hit the shutter, or how you frame the situation can already “lie” to the viewer. It’s a moot point to me. Vision is vision and creating is creating whether it comes straight out of camera or through talent with photoshop. I personally enjoy this kind of mixed-media art that I get to experience because of the state of photography in the present world. That is why I love photoshop.

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Bryan can most often be found taking photographs for his commercial studio Cooper & O'Hara, but he also has a passion for cooking, zoology, travel, science, entertainment, design, and creativity in general. Email Me